For many L&D professionals, measuring ROI can be a bit of an enigma. It all stems from the lack of one conclusive, industry approved model or method for evaluating and measuring ROI.
That’s not to say there aren’t any available, a substantial number of evaluation models in L&D have been created – from the 1959 Kirkpatrick model to Will Thalheimer’s recent LTEM – these have all in turn been deliberated, evaluated and in some cases set aside. So why do so many L&D professionals lack the confidence needed to successfully measure ROI in learning? Perhaps it’s because there is no industry approved method, or perhaps it simply isn’t thought of as a priority.
Whatever the reason, it’s vital that as an industry, we don’t shy away from the challenges presented by measuring ROI in learning. ROI is all about value. When times are tough, we all know that one of the first things that can be pulled is the L&D budget. That’s why it’s important for you to successfully calculate ROI and share it with your organisation.
Because of this, I am keen to deconstruct the enigma of measuring ROI and inject some inspiration and confidence at the beginning of the financial year. So, let’s explore some of the basics and demystify measuring ROI in learning:
Managers, learners and business leaders all have a part to play in implementing a successful process for measuring ROI in learning, but it falls to the L&D professional to be the driving force behind getting it off the ground, to oversee the process and make sure it is running smoothly.
With the end of the financial year upon us, now is a great time to revaluate how you are currently measuring ROI and assess areas where you can make improvements. It’s the perfect time to evaluate the measures of ROI you have collected over the last 12 months, and consider what changes you can make for the next 12.
The end of the financial year means a review of budget allocation for most organisations. Asking yourself the following questions might help you gain clarity on what areas you should be focusing on, so you are in a better place for next years’ budget review:
- What data would you have liked to have seen from last 12 months?
- What data would your executive board liked to have seen from the last 12 months?
- What areas of learning were you unable to measure, that you know would have influenced your budget allocation?
Go further than just the training courses themselves – as we all know, a post-course survey or evaluation form will not help you measure the true ROI your learning solution has to offer; it’s the transfer of learning that matters, not simply the attendance or even enjoyment of the delegate. Apply your evaluations to the day-to-day work and the long-term impact your solutions have had on your learners – this will demonstrate how the learning has improved their performance and how it has added value to the business.
Measurement for L&D is now all about the impact of learning and data that demonstrates the value it adds. What does learning deliver in your organisation? If we want the board to sign off the investment in a piece of learning, then we need to show them why they can’t afford to say no. We need to provide clear, evidence-based data that spells out exactly why learning needs to happen and how the business will benefit.
So how do we stop ignoring ROI? A simplified answer would be ‘get closer to your business’. If you understand the goals and objectives of your business, you will also understand what successful ROI looks like and, in turn, the measurements you need to gather to share with your business leaders.
If you’re still not sure about where to begin, here are three simple ways you can start to overcome the challenge of ROI:
Identify what metrics matter
Think about what the learning needs to achieve. It often requires behaviour change – managing employees more effectively, for example – and always requires a performance impact.
Concentrate on the desired outputs when designing learning and keep assessing them throughout the process to see if they are being met. If not, there’s an opportunity to improve your solutions.
Invest in your managers
L&D need to have managers on board if they are to get the metrics required and if learners are to apply learning in their roles.
After all, managers are who really benefit from a strong learning culture. They should have the skills to flag up performance issues and support, enable and reinforce performance and behavioural change.
We know that businesses want clear, evidence-based data on how learning is having an impact and a powerful and efficient way for L&D professionals to do this is by gathering success stories. Reporting the positive outcomes that your learning is having reinforces the benefits of the programme while providing you with invaluable evaluation and success data.
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Measuring ROI in learning is not the impossible task it might seem. The benefits however, are huge, measuring ROI succesfully can add credibility and longevity to your learning strategy. and with the end of the financial year upon us, now really is the perfect time to reassess how you measure ROI in learning for your organisation.
If you’re interested in finding out more about measuring ROI in learning, why not take a look at our whitepaper ‘metrics that matter’ which explores this topic further.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.